black walnut is an Ontario native, prized for its timber as well
as for nuts. Large 150 year old specimen trees have been sold for
veneer for thousands of dollars. It is important to get assistance
from the Ministry of Natural Resources when considering the sale
of valuable trees. Black walnut timber plantations are routinely
established in the fertile Southern Ontario lowlands.
The black walnut
is one of the most successful edible nut trees in Ontario. It is
well adapted to our winter cold, and unlike Persian walnuts, avoids
late spring frosts by delaying leafing in the spring. As a result
it is suited to much of Southern Ontario. Plantings and wild trees
can be found from Windsor in the south-west to Ottawa in the east.
There are even black walnut trees thriving in Quebec City east of
that. A strain of black walnut has even adapted itself to the rigors
of the dry fertile prairies (zone 3) of Manitoba.
than climate is the soil type and drainage conditions. Black walnut
succeeds well beyond its native range, wherever pH readings are
between 6 and 7. Eroded limestone soils ranging from sand to clay
are ideal. They are at home along the whole length of the eroded
edge of the Bruce Trail (Niagara escarpment to the Bruce Peninsula).
Deep well-drained soils are important to proper development and
year old "Emma K"
Though the black
walnut is well established in Ontario, the crop of delicious nuts
it produces has not been utilized except by a few persistent foragers.
The early pioneers highly valued the rich tasting nuts and put away
many sacks of them each year. Each farmstead had its orchard of
fruit and nut trees to provide it with its source of winter food.
That all but disappeared when easier cracking Persian walnuts became
common in the grocery stores. With modern tree shakers, harvesters,
nut hullers, crackers and sorting machines being available, it is
possible to profit from the nut crop again. The industry is alive
and well in Stockton, Missouri where millions of pounds of black
walnuts are processed each year. The total kernel crop is marketed
domestically. Almost none is left over for export.
Though the black
walnut industry is based on wild trees in North America, many selections
have been found that offer larger nut meats in easier cracking shells.
A few of the cultivars that do well in Southern Ontario include:
Emma K, Thomas, Weschcke and Bicentennial.